Narratives are changing. The fearless and confident women of today are transcending all boundaries and creating new ones. They are writing stories beyond the margins of the text, stories of hope, courage, persistence, and unwavering dedication. One such story that offers an inspiring testament is of Sayaka Wakita – A Ballerina, An Entrepreneur, A Speaker and A Dreamer
Born and brought up in Nagoya, Japan, Sayaka Wakita started ballet at the age of six. Her undeniable love for dance made her believe that she would become a dancer one day, even though she wasn’t the brightest of the lot. “I kept failing my ballet exams, took extra classes with younger students just to pace up but somewhere deep I knew the turf is mine,” says the 25-year-old. Her convictions led her to the Victoria Ballet Academy in Toronto, Canada and subsequently to the Royal Ballet School in Antwerp, Belgium. They gave her the opportunity to perform in countries like Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Germany. Speaking about the experiences, the dancer who is now based out of Germany reveals, “The emphasis on ballet was very different everywhere I went and was rather difficult for me to deal with. In Japan, I was dancing so freely, not knowing anything about the basics. But with the Vaganova method, all of a sudden, I felt trapped and restricted because we were strictly trained where the positions and forms were something I was not used to.” For the unserved, the Vaganova Method is a ballet technique and training system devised by famous Russian dancer and pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova. The method develops the knowledge of how one’s body should be used in order to dance with expression, yet without injuries, like the best Russian dancers do.
Like every art form, dance requires a person to open up in more ways than one. It’s not easy to bare your soul to unknown people. The alignment of techniques, movements, and expressions is crucial and intimidating at the same time. However, Sayaka feels differently. According to her, dance is powerful, and the understanding of body movements is universal. But she doesn’t like to think about the movements when she dances unless it’s a rehearsal. “I like to feel free and just enjoy the given moment on stage as much as I can because a dancer’s career is short.” She also confesses that the profession demands mental strength over physical capability. “If one doesn’t believe in one’s self, people see straight through it. That has the potential to destroy everything you’ve worked for, especially because ballet depends on illusion, strength, and conveying emotions.”
Performing for the last 20 years now, Ms Wakita gives ballet credit for the person she is today, but many do not know that it’s not the only golden feather in her cap. The rare artist is also an entrepreneur, a speaker and a dreamer. She is currently a student at the prestigious Harvard University’s Extension School studying Business and Economics. She also chose this distance education program because it allows her to swing between her career as a professional dancer in Germany and her studies at a competitive American Ivy League University. Looking back at her five years into Harvard, this multitasking ballerina says, “It’s one of the most revitalizing experiences of my life. The institution has taught me the importance of priorities. With so little spare time given to you, you realize what or who matters in your life.”
From the beginning, Sayaka has aspired to be a better version of herself by being passionate and curious. She has also felt earnestly close to her entrepreneurial side, given her love for innovation. “My interest in business started at the age of 17 when I was invited by the Global Shapers Community’s “Regenerate Japan” program lead by the World Economic Forum. In it, young leaders brought economic productivity and empowered regional areas of Japan outside of Tokyo. Ever since I have been fascinated with the business world.” The same year, Sayaka established an online coaching program that started initially for dancers but quickly grew into a consulting business for entrepreneurs and prospective educators. At 20, she founded an institution in Japan to promote culture, art, and education. Time and again, she has stood up for her rights and raised her voice on subjects related to arts and business and education and discrimination. “I ask myself – how can we challenge preconceived notions and defy expectations? How can we maximize business potential using creativity? Why is art education fundamental in the age of artificial intelligence? These are inevitable questions that will determine and shape the future of our next generation,” avers the artist who gets inspired by the society she lives in, the history of the human race, and the future of where humanity will take us.
Cover photo: Leszek Januszewski, Paradiso by Xin Peng Wang, Theater Dortmund
(Content Exclusive for Real Life Heroes – By Manvi)